- After realizing how many chemical substances can be found in beauty products, Majid Mousavi set out to create a new type of face mask that was 100% natural.
- Working with dermatologist Lloyd Diamond, the Dutch founder created Mudmasky, a company selling face masks made of three types of natural clay that are meant to moisturize and purify the skin.
- Through trial and error, Mousavi, who had no experience in the cosmetics industry, sold 1,000 tubes in 2015.
- With the help of social media influencers and beauty boxes, Mudmasky grabbed the attention of consumers worldwide and increased their sales numbers drastically.
- The company, which is still only run by a team of three people, sells over a million masks a year.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Majid Mousavi was browsing the shops at the airport in 2013, looking for a nice gift to bring back to his girlfriend, when he picked up a moisturizer.
As he looked at the ingredients on the back of the packaging, Lloyd Diamond, another traveler who also happened to be a dermatologist, approached him and said: “That moisturizer will do more harm to your girlfriend’s skin than it will do good.”
That lead Mousavi, a Dutch businessman who had been fired three times and asked to resign six times, to ask himself: Why not make an all-natural product that will actually do the skin some good?
That idea became Mudmasky, a company that initially only produced clay masks, but then went on to sell other skincare products containing only natural ingredients. And it’s been successful: Sales have increased from 1,000 tubes in 2015 to more than one million in 2019.
Mousavi started his entrepreneurial adventure without any experience in the cosmetics industry, which is why he decided to keep in touch with the dermatologist from the airport. Through Diamond, Mousavi learned about all the unnecessary chemicals that go into cosmetics and revealed that most of them don’t actually have the right pH value for the skin.
The art of taking an existing product and improving it
“We didn’t reinvent the wheel,” Mousavi tells Business Insider during a tour of Mudmasky’s factory in the Netherlands. “I simply looked at how to improve an already-existing product. My idea was simple: take out all the bad stuff and put in the good stuff. But it was also naive of course because it just isn’t that simple.”
Diamond’s help was essential. “Without him, Mudmasky would have never formed. Together, we looked at the ingredients and asked ourselves: What really works? How do we make it accessible to the consumer? Nowadays, it feels like you have to have a science degree to know what’s in your skincare.”
In the beginning, the founders used one main ingredient in every mask: bentonite clay. But this had more disadvantages than they originally thought. “The advantage of bentonite clay is that it extracts impurities and oils from the skin,” Mousavi said. “But while it makes your skin radiate on the first day, three or four days after, the top layer of the skin will be damaged. Your skin will feel dry and sensitive. You start to get pimples, so you start using the mask more often, which only exacerbates the effect,” he said.
The founders solved this problem by using edible bentonite clay instead, which, according to Mousavi, is the purest form of clay, but therefore also the most expensive. They also added Moroccan clay, which does not purify but is good for moisturizing, and French clay, which contains minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. “At the time, we were the only face mask company that made its products from three types of clay. Brands usually don’t offer this because they want you to buy as many clay masks as possible.”
Testing different ingredients became dangerous
It also turned out that it was not easy making a product that is 100% natural, which is what Mousavi set out to do in the first place. “You always need some chemical ingredients to stabilize the product, but in a Mudmasky mask, we try to keep this at a bare minimum,” a spokesman at the factory said.
Although the masks are organic and free of parabens, Mudmasky doesn’t mention this on their packaging because the terms were banned by the European Union in July 2019. But Mousavi thinks this is for the better anyway. He believes the terms “organic” or “free of parabens” are still used on cosmetic packaging even though it’s not always true. This was backed by a recent investigation by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
But in his attempt to make the product as natural and sustainable as possible, Mousavi also had a few hard lessons to learn. When he wanted to switch from having the face masks in plastic tubes to tubes made of sugar cane, a huge production error occurred that almost cost him his company.
The team in the factory were attempting to fill 300,000 sugar cane packages with the Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask when a reaction with the clay caused the tubes to explode.
“We were at about 200,000 tubes when they suddenly exploded one by one. The clay had reacted to the sustainable sugarcane tube, which also turned out to be not entirely made of the right materials because the factory had made a typographical error in the order,” he said.
Mudmasky almost didn’t make it. “I stood on the edge of the abyss because officially, the risk lies with Mudmasky. Both the filling factory and the tube factory had covered themselves. I should have tested the order beforehand. Luckily, both factories helped me pay for the loss. If that hadn’t happened, I would have gone bankrupt.”
Money well spent
“I could have had Mudmasky produced in China for little money,” says Mousavi. But this is not what is important to him. At the Dutch factory, Mousavi pays “twenty times more per tube,” but can be sure that the products undergo intensive quality control which is in line with what Mudmasky sells on the packaging.
Because of this, Mudmasky is not cheap. The price varies from $32 to $77, without a discount. Mousavi also had to look for innovative ways to sell Mudmasky, which he found by cooperating with companies that produce beauty boxes.
For about $22 a month, customers receive a monthly box containing about five samples of beauty products. When customers write a review about a product, they earn points that can be spent on something extra. Mudmasky cooperates with Ipsy in the US and with GlossyBox in Europe.
“Since the collaboration, which started in 2016, the number of subscribers to the beauty boxes has increased,” said Mousavi. He also works with around 120 influencers who promote his products online. In 2017, a video about Mudmasky unexpectedly went viral. “This made us become very well-known on social media — and I didn’t even have to pay for that!”
This success is reflected in the sales figures. In 2015, Mudmasky was producing roughly 1,000 tubes. But by 2016, they were making 70,000 tubes, all of which were sold.
In 2019, more than a million tubes have been sold. But, Mousavi did not want to reveal the company’s turnover and profit figures.
Most of the tubes that are sold end up in the beauty boxes for which Mousavi receives the cost price. Some 50,000 tubes are sold online via Amazon and their website.
Until now, Mousavi has focused mainly on American and British markets. “Consumers there are more willing to try out a new product.” Dutch customers appear to be loyal once they change their minds. “At the moment, the largest number of repeat purchases comes from the Netherlands.”
Deviating from the script
However, growth can also come with some disappointments. In the case of Mudmasky, this came in the form of ending the collaboration with Diamond. “In the beginning, Mudmasky was producing new masks every month, but that is simply not possible with a million tubes. As a result, we were forced to add a little more preservatives. Diamond didn’t agree with this, but if you want to grow, you sometimes have to make decisions that deviate from the original idea,” said Mousavi.
Speaking about his cooperation with the production plant, Mousavi said: “They find me the most difficult customer. For example, most cosmetics contain dyes. The factory suggested adding one dye, but I told them I just don’t want it there.”
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In the meantime, the number of employees has not increased. Mousavi runs Mudmasky with two others. “I outsource everything,” he said.
As far as he’s concerned, the growth is mainly in sales. He expects to sell 2 million tubes in 2020 and, if possible, attract the attention of some bigger brands.
“Brands like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder pay to be included in a beauty box. They get 15 to 30 samples a day, but I’m always there for free.”
In the future, the entrepreneur likes the idea of a big company like L’Oréal coming to knock on his door for a takeover. Not that he would go along with it. “I would reject them,” he laughs, “with the confirmation that I’m on the right track.”
Read the original article on Business Insider Nederland. Copyright 2020.
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